Low band antenna maintenance

I spent some time yesterday clearing branches away from my 80/160m ladder line vertical. The tree is seemingly conductive, especially when wet, which is most of the time here on Guam. I’ve had trouble with arcing when branches have contacted the vertical section, making repairs difficult because I have to pull the antenna down through the center of the tree to get to the damaged section.

When pulling down branches, I head a loud BUZZZ in my ear. Fearing the worst, I dropped everything and ran away as fast as I could. I tentatively walked back slowly, looking for wasp nests. They can be very difficult to find!

There is a wasp nest in this photo!

It took me a while, and then I finally saw it – the wasps were huge – about 2-3cm in length. I’ve seen these nests in the jungle, and usually they are not aggressive like the smaller Boonie wasps that tear me up along my South American Beverage.

Apparently, I hit the nest accidentally with one of the branches I was pulling down. I’m never far from a can of Raid when doing antenna work for this very reason, and I was able to complete my work as soon as the wasps were taken care of.

Antenna feed point showing vacuum relay and hairpin coil for matching on 160m.
After clearing branches, I have a clear shot up through the tree, for a couple weeks anyway.
This is the top of the vertical, showing the single wire 160m top loading wires, and the 160/80m section of ladder line.
This diagram shows the layout of this antenna. The TEE top on 160 prevents horizontal radiation I would otherwise have if left in an inverted L configuration for Top Band.

Last night, I worked VK9HR on Lord Howe Island for a new DXCC country on 160m both CW and SSB. I wishing ST0R comes just as easily!

Former Navy Club Station

When I ride, I follow a loop around the housing area in which I live. This loop follows some of the old Navy roads that transit behind the South Finegayan housing area and coincidentally passes the old Navy MARS/Amateur Radio club station. This station started falling into disrepair about 20 years ago, and was ultimately condemned and demolished. Few reminders of its existence remain.

Looking at the access road to the club station from outside the back of the housing area
The jungle has largely overtaken the road leading to the station. Still perfect for mountain biking, however!
The parking lot of the station is completely overgrown. The shack itself was located just to the left of center in this photo
From one of the tower bases, a few of the poles remain standing. The building was located on the top of the rise between the two telephone poles to the right.
One of the tower bases remain

The Government paid a lot of money for this radiotelephone back in the day!

This land has since been turned over to the Government of Guam, and the area is frequented by hunters and those scavenging metal for the recyclers.

Some unscrupulous but motivated thief dug up some buried cables looking for copper. When they found telephone twisted pair only – they gave up.

The towers are certainly long gone – but are they? It turned out that two crank-up towers were recently stolen and dragged about 1/2 mile where they sat for a number of months. I stumbled across them during a bike ride, and had plans to recover them. But, I was too late…

Recently, someone cut both towers in half with a torch to facilitate their removal to the scrap dealer
Telescoped aluminum tubing from an old yagi remained scattered on the ground – this aluminum is probably more valuable as scrap than the tower itself
Not a big travesty; the top section of the taller tower to the right is bent as you can see in the photo
A close-up of the bent top section
I gathered all the aluminum tubing and rode home with it – plenty here to finish my planned 40m vertical array

Back into the jungle

It has been a number of months since I walked my Beverage antennas. The weather this year has been unusual in that there has been no dry season per say. We’ve received a lot of rain in the normally dry spring months, enough that there have been no big grass fires normal for this time of year. Today was another rainy day, not too hot and perfect to walk the Beverage antennas.

Fortunately, everything looked better than I expected. As wet as it has been, I expected to find everything heavily overgrown. This was the case in some areas, but for the most part, it was pretty easy going.

Beverage wire overgrown with vines

In the above photo, you can see the Beverage wire in the top right of the photo. It has been heavily overgrown with vines. Some say this is not a big problem, however my experience has shown that this overgrowth attenuates the signal on the receiving end. Essentially, the always-wet growth grounds the antenna wire.

There is not much I can do in these cases but pull off the vines periodically. They grow back every month or so. I suppose I could use insulated wire, however the copper clad steel is cheap, and this area is frequented by hunters. My only Beverage made of insulated wire – the African antenna – is down and chewed to pieces by the pigs. The copper clad steel antenna wire is almost invisible, and it is not all that difficult to spend a couple hours a month clearing off the growth.

I was able to clear off the North American and European antennas. The South American wire is 1/2 cleared off – the far end transits wasp territory and I have no real urge to venture there. The African antenna is down – I will need to replace it before the ST0 DXpedition in a few weeks. I really would like to work them on 160m for a new zone, however I do not have my hopes up since the European pileups will be chaos.

Some Positive Press

The June 2011 issue of QST magazine had a brief paragraph and photo published of me.

June 2011 QST magazine
Page 13

Now for the rest of the story…

Back in January of this year, I had to travel to CT for a USCG professional development school at the Coast Guard Academy. While there, I had an opportunity to meet with several good friends at the QTH of Randy, K5ZD. There is where Dave, NN1N presented me with my 160m WAS certificate. Dave had intercepted it at the ARRL HQ so he could hand deliver it to me in person.

Dave thought it might be a good idea to have a photo taken of me, in uniform, with the certificate. The opportunity presented itself at school graduation, where asst. school chief Troy Reidel “presented” me with the certificate for the photo op.

And yes, I have since been fortunate to complete WAS on eight more bands, for nine total, 160-10m. I’ve not yet received the certificates, however the application was submitted a couple months ago. It looks like 6m WAS will be an insurmountable challenge, unless we get lots of sunspots, fast, or I invest in a EME array!

And now you know the rest of the story…